Two hundred families participated in this year's surf day at Flagler Beach on Aug. 19.
Applause and cheers rang through the salty air at Flagler Beach as 14-year-old Ryan Metzelar sprang to his feet on a blue surf board. While this was his fifth year participating in Surfers For Autism's annual surf day, it's the first time he stood while catching a wave.
The Metzelar family, from Coral Springs, was one of the 200 families affected by autism who participated in the event on Saturday, Aug. 19.
Don Ryan, founder and president of Surfers For Autism, said families traveled from eight or nine states for the free event, which gives autistic people ages 4 and up therapeutic and stimulating opportunities to communicate and get out of their shell.
"It’s a day for parents to have a day at the beach like a typical family when they maybe never get to have that," Ryan said.
Sean McKenney, a 16-year-old Bunnell resident, has been participating in Surfers for Autism for eight years.
"To see how kind people are is amazing," Sean's mother Linda McKenney said. "It's one of our favorite activities of the year."
Sean said he likes interacting with all the people at the event.
Ryan noted that this event wouldn't be possible without the volunteers, of which there were about 350 this year.
Brandi and David Rastetter just moved to Palm Coast this summer from Ohio, where Brandi worked with autistic children for 12 years.
She said she was thrilled to have found this opportunity to volunteer because she misses her former students in Ohio, many of whom she still keeps in touch with.
"You can't cut that mommy cord," Brandi Rastetter said about her unbreakable connection with the kids she used to work with.
The Baker family has been present at the Surfers For Autism events for six years, and now can finally all volunteer as a family since their youngest, Kasandra, turned 10.
"It’s amazing to work with the kids," Kassandra Baker said. "You get to learn about them."
To make an impact beyond volunteering, last week the family opened the doors to their own business in Palm Coast called Kascel Therapy.
Kascel Therapy, located at 3 Cypress Branch Way, Suite 108 C, is an occupational therapy business that provides outpatient clinic and early intervention services.
"Being about to see (the kids) achieve something they want to is just amazing," said Jennifer Baker, Kascel Therapy owner.
For more information about Surfers for Autism, visit surfersforautism.org.